Transcript of a statement issued by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley following her return from the 43rd Regular Meeting of Heads of Government of CARICOM which took place in Paramaribo, Suriname from July 3rd – 5th.
“This is the second time that the heads of government have met in person, as you know, since the two year break of COVID when we last met in Barbados in February 2020, and we were able this time to continue to work against the backdrop of the triple crises that we all face, whether it is the pandemic, whether it is the climate, whether it is the inflation pressure in terms of fuel and food.
Against that backdrop, we continued the work to see how best we can ensure that Caribbean people have access to food at cheaper prices. That process, as you know, means now that the projects that have been identified across the region, we are going to Trinidad next month, but we are also identifying financing opportunities for them. We’ve also agreed that we need to be able to close the gap again with regional air travel now that the pandemic has eased a bit in terms of much more people traveling.
Obviously, we’ve lost about, in our case in Barbados about 8,000 seats a month. So that we need to see now how best we are going to work with the private sector airlines that are flying, but at the same time, recognize that we may have to put again, some effort at the public sector level. That’s going to require a study so it’s not an immediate action.
But if we don’t do the work now, we can’t resolve the problem in a few months time. So that work and that commitment to resolve the work by having the studies and the numbers and the business plans put together, and we’ve agreed on that. Similarly, we’ve finally settled and I am so happy about this. The definitions for agricultural workers, domestics and security guards to move freely throughout the community.
As you know, we took this decision some time back, in fact, Barbados passed its own legislation in 2020, but we’ve now settled the definition for the entire region and therefore, people who want to move across the region as domestic workers, as security guards, as agricultural workers can do so. And they don’t need only certificates, but they’re practical experience.
We’ve put a mechanism in place to ensure that their practical experience will be taken into account. We obviously also discussed our coordinated work to continue to ensure that we can access greater funding to be able to help us with the climate vulnerability that we face.
And this is a lot of pretty language, but what this really means is that we will be able to see how we are trying to get money to be able to do the work that we need to do to get water to people with the ground water crisis to be able to ensure that we can also protect coastal communities where the erosion in many instances is hurting our people; you know, people who are on sides of hills whose lives may be lost.
So those are some critical steps as we go together to continue to fight the battle for getting more funding for small island developing states and climate vulnerable countries generally. With respect to the issue of of of transport as well. We also were in a position to take a report from myself who’s been working on the whole issue of maritime transportation.
And I’m happy to say that we are much closer now to being able to get to the point where we can put solutions in place. We are working with external partners to see how best we can get the maritime transport through fast ferry and traditional ferries in place. Because obviously if you’re going to look to coordinate production even for food security alone, you need to master the logistics of movement.
So this has been a work meeting and resuming from where we were. The other major thing is that we’ve had so many ad hoc meetings over the course of the period of COVID that we realize that we need to ensure that we can meet more regularly but in a more structured way. And for the first time, therefore, instead of two regular meetings a year, we expect to have those two regular, but then four other virtual meetings, putting us closer to work with each other, because in this environment, you can’t survive on your own. And therefore countries have recognized as we have that with frank conversation and with sharing of plans, that we’re in a position to be able to do a lot more in these very difficult and challenging times. We were also able to address other regional security issues and to also look at the situation in Haiti, which continues to be a very difficult and challenging one, particularly with security.
And to see how best we can mobilize work not only within CARICOM but across the international community, given the very perilous situation in Haiti at this point in time. Against the backdrop of rising fuel prices and fertilizer prices, which have gone crazy and through the roof. We took a decision to continue to work towards having the Venezuelan sanctions lifted for the purposes of us being able to have the OECS and others eventually to be able to enter a renewed and redefined PetroCaribe with Venezuela, as well as to look at other carveouts necessary for Trinidad to be able to explore its joint gas fields between its line with Venezuela, recognizing that Trinidad has extra capacity and indeed the world needs that now to fight the huge increases that we’ve seen, as I said, in both fuel prices.
But of course, fertilizer, which is critical for us to produce the food. So we are hopeful that we’ll continue the work that will allow us to see some level of relief, unlike in the region, especially as it relates to the removal of those sanctions, given the fact that so many people are suffering from the increased prices, I should say that there was a commitment to to allow Venezuela to do business with Europe in limited circumstances.
And therefore, we’re using that also as an example to be able to see why we need that level of relief for Caribbean people if Venezuela’s prepared to offer it.”